June 23, 2017

Natali

The promise of a better life in Brazil was what brought my father to the country in 1998. They said that Brazil paid well, like $100 a month. The following year, my mother came, too, through Paraguay. I was three years old at the time so I don’t remember what life was like in Bolivia. At first we lived at my godfather’s house. My father, like most Bolivians, worked in sewing workshops. The first years were very difficult, because exploitation was so common. The situation began to improve when my father set up his own sewing workshop. When our life started becoming more comfortable, my father was diagnosed with leukemia. The disease was already at an advanced stage. Luckily, he already had RNE and cold access to public hospitals, ICUs and everything else. At the time, I was 7 and my younger sisters were 4 years old and 1 year old. It was a very difficult time, in addition to my father’s illness and death, my mother had to deal with the practical side of life and take over the workshop. She had to learn how to sew and handle running the workshop.

My sisters and I always studied. Here in São Paulo, we already lived in Santana, São Mateus and after my father died, we moved to Bras. That’s where I felt the prejudice. The kids at school were telling me to, “Go back to your country,” and things like “Wow! You’re Bolivian, but not an evil person.” I was very upset. Then I discovered that many of them had Bolivian mothers who were terribly exploited, worked long hours, and didn’t take care of all the children – to give them baths, to do these types of things. Imagine… At that time, my middle sister cried and said, “I’m not Bolivian.” This business of prejudice is very sad.

I finished high school and did a multimedia technical course and then did a free course at USP. There was only one Bolivian colleague in my class. The curriculum is great – and free – but few migrants have access to this information. The technical course I took was also free and a worthwhile experience. But that’s it, migrants don’t have this information that these opportunities exist. Today I’m in my third semester of a journalism major and I have a scholarship while collaborating at the Folha da América, which focuses on migration. I’m really enjoying the courses I chose. I want to be a journalist because I really like to know what is happening in the world, what people think, and to be a well-informed person. I want to see if, through my work, I can help spread important information that can improve the lives of immigrants.

As for being a migrant, today I feel comfortable, but it has not always been so. When I was a teenager, I felt empty, you know? I was not a Bolivian, because I did not live the day-to-day in that country. Neither am I Brazilian, since I was not born here nor are my relatives from here. Now I don’t try to be what I am not. I was born in Bolivia and I live in Brazil, I am part of Latin America.

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